Protecting Customer Relationships While Building a Prospect Database

By Tema Frank CEO, Frank Reactions | January 27, 2012

Have you ever stood outside a restaurant looking at its menu, trying to decide whether to choose it or one of the half-dozen other restaurants on the same street? How would you react if the maitre d' suddenly came out and asked you how many seats you needed? A little affronted, perhaps? You might feel that he's coming on a bit strong. What about if instead he came out and covered up the prices on the menu, telling you that you have to come inside and sit down before you could see the prices? Seems ridiculous, doesn't it. Yet that's exactly what a surprising number of hotel sites still do online, insisting that prospects register in order to fully explore the hotel's offerings and prices. Nothing turns away potential customers faster.

There are obvious reasons for wanting prospects to register and give you information about themselves, many of which can even benefit them. The more you know about them, the more relevant the information you can present, both while they are on your site and in later e-mails. This is good for both of you. But consumers are wary of unwanted e-mails, concerned about the security of any personal data they enter, and, quite rightly, reluctant to share information before they are certain yours is a site they are truly interested in, comfortable with, and might want to use again.

If you want to collect information from visitors to your site, think about:

The less you ask for, and the later in the process you ask it, the more likely you are to get it without scaring away new business. Here's how one typical prospect reacted when faced with a request to register at the site of a high-quality, well-known, hotel chain:

"I feel uncomfortable with them asking for a reservation name this early because as of now [I've made] no commitment to make an actual reservation."

There is no need for you to know anything about the customer, other than when and where they would like to stay, before they reach the point of wanting to finalize a booking. And what information do you really need then? Be sure not to demand too much. You need their contact information and credit card number. That's all. Anything else should be optional.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.